Paul, an apostle (not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead),
Paul, an apostle. When introducing a guest preacher or a special guest, it is normal practice to establish their credentials – to say where they have studied, what qualifications they have earned, and what they have done. Paul has no interest in this sort of introduction. He simply says he is an apostle sent by God. It’s the audacious claim of a man who has heard the call of God and who consequently cares little for the accolades of men.
and all the brethren who are with me, To the churches of Galatia:
(a) Galatia was located in the center of modern-day Turkey. Paul passed through the region at least twice in his travels (Acts 16:6, 18:23).
(b) To the churches. We speak of the Galatian church as though there was only one. But Galatia was a region with many towns and churches. This letter would have been circulated among them.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,
Paul begins all of his letters with this salutation (see Rom. 1:7). Yet by Paul’s standards this is an abrupt opening to a letter. He does not call the Galatians faithful saints as he does with the Ephesians (Eph. 1:1) and Colossians (Col. 1:2). Nor does he thank God for them as he does with the Romans (Rom. 1:8) and the Thessalonians (1 Th. 1:2). Even the confused Corinthians got a warmer greeting than this. Paul has no praise for the Galatians and in verse six we find out why.
who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen.
(a) Gave Himself for our sins. On the cross, Jesus became the propitiation for the sins of the whole world (see entry for 1 John 2:2). Because the Lamb of God bore all our sins, God is no longer holding our sins against us (2 Cor. 5:19). Why did he give himself up for you? Because he loves you (Gal. 2:20).
(b) So that He might rescue us who were in captivity. The cross was a rescue mission. Tradition teaches that we were born bad to the bone, but the scriptures declare we were born enslaved to sin. Tradition says you need to be good, but Jesus says you need to be free.
Who rescued us? Here Paul credits Jesus, but in Colossians he credits the Father (Col. 1:13). It was a team effort. In the Garden of Eden, the Father delivered the threat (Gen. 3:15), and on the cross the Son carried it out.
(c) From this present evil age. The world remains under the influence of the evil one (1 John 5:19), and this is why people get sick and nations war. God’s solution is found in the cross. Through his sacrifice, Jesus provided us with everything we need to overcome sin and sickness. Salvation and wholeness are not things to experience in the sweet by and by, but something every believer can enjoy here and now.
I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel;
(a) I am amazed. The Galatians were turning from grace back to the law. Specifically, they were listening to those in the circumcision camp (Gal. 5:2). Within the early church there were some who said all believers had to be circumcised and follow the Law of Moses (Acts 15:5). Circumcision was the hot button issue of the day, but legalism has many forms (see entry for Gal. 1:7).
(b) You are so quickly deserting Him. The Galatians had cut themselves off from Christ (see entry for Gal. 5:4).
(c) The grace of Christ was at the heart of Paul’s gospel. He once said that his aim in life was to complete the task the Lord Jesus had given him—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace. (Acts 20:24). Paul referred to this gospel by many names: the gospel of Christ (Rom. 15:19), the gospel of your salvation (Eph. 1:13), the gospel of peace (Eph. 6:15), the glorious gospel of the blessed God (1 Tim 1:11). But these were different labels for the only gospel, the gospel of grace.
(d) A different gospel. Any message that diminishes grace or seeks to balance grace with law-keeping or other works, can be dismissed as a different or distorted gospel. A distorted gospel says things like, “Grace teaches us to keep the law,” “You must live right to maintain grace,” and “If you want to grow, you need to follow the rules.”
which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.
(a) Which is really not another. There is only one gospel and that is gospel of Christ (a.k.a., the gospel of grace). Any other so-called gospel is a false gospel or a distortion of the true gospel. Further reading: “By which gospel are you saved?”
(b) There are some who are disturbing you. Those who preach a different gospel are trying to unsettle you. “You need to pray more, serve more, do more to maintain your salvation.” Heed their do-more message and you will lose your peace. In Paul’s day, these disturbers were known as Judaizers and they preached circumcision (Gal. 5:2).
(c) Want to distort the gospel of Christ. The word for distort means to pervert or corrupt. It can also be translated as turn around. A turned-around gospel is one that turns you away from Jesus and causes you to focus on yourself. Many things can turn us away from Christ. These include the law (2 Cor. 3:7), human effort (Gal. 3:3), traditions (Col. 2:8), hollow and deceptive philosophy (Col. 2:8), angel worship (Col. 2:18), rules and regulations (Col. 2:21-23), and myths (1 Tim. 1:4).
Further reading: “How do we pervert the gospel?”
But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!
(a) A contrary gospel. Paul had a zero-tolerance policy for other gospels because any message that distracts you from Christ is harmful to your faith. If you are being told that you need to read more, pray more, and serve more to please the Lord, you are hearing a contrary gospel. Since you are no longer hearing the gospel of grace, there is a danger you will fall from grace and sever your connection with Christ (Gal. 5:4).
(b) What we have preached. Paul preached the grace of Christ (Gal. 1:6). It is the grace of Christ that makes the good news good news.
(c) What you received. To receive the gospel is to believe it.
In the New Testament, there are more than 200 imperative statements linked with faith. Some of these statements exhort us to: receive Jesus (John 1:11-12, 5:43), receive the message of Jesus (John 17:8), obey or heed the message or good news of Jesus (John 17:6) and turn to God in repentance (Acts 26:20).
Other scriptures encourage us to accept the word (Mark 4:20), confess Jesus as Lord (Rom. 10:9), call on the name of the Lord (Act 2:21), eat the bread of life (John 6:50-51), be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:20), submit to God’s righteousness (Rom. 10:3), and be born again (John 3:3, 7).
But the one imperative that appears far more than any other, is the instruction to believe. We are to believe in Jesus (see entry for John 3:16).
(d) He is to be accursed. Preach grace and you will be a blessed because grace reveals the favor of heaven. But preach law, and you will be cursed because the law ministers condemnation and death (see Gal. 3:10).
For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.
A bond-servant of Christ; see Rom. 1:1.
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- Galatians 1:1
- Galatians 1:2
- Galatians 1:3
- Galatians 1:4-5
- Galatians 1:6
- Galatians 1:7
- Galatians 1:8-9
- Galatians 1:10